Tips for Traveling with a Toddler

Tips for traveling with a toddler, what to pack when traveling with a toddler

Once your baby reaches the toddler stage, typically around the age of 1-3 years old, traveling becomes a whole new experience with its own unique challenges. Your child has become mobile, more expressive and innately curious and anxious to explore his surroundings. Your job is to not only get to and enjoy your destination, but to keep your travel buddy safe, comfortable and entertained. Follow our tips for easier travel with a toddler, and you’ll both have a wonderful trip.

Pack smart (which, unfortunately, doesn’t necessarily mean light).
You think babies require a lot of stuff, but now that you’re in the throes of the toddler stage, you’ll quickly see that the Baby Packing List has nothing on the whopping amount of toys, snacks, clothes and gear you’ll need to travel with your toddler. Here’s a handy pack list for tots we’ve found at BabyCenter and have revised after traveling with toddlers of our own:

  • Diapers – Bring extras in case of emergencies or delays. Potty training? We feel for ya. Regardless of what the experts say, rely on pull-ups, rather than new underpants for the plane ride.
  • Wipes – Not just for changing diapers. You’ll likely use them more for the endless spills, drips, and messy disasters that go hand in hand with toddlers. Also useful for cleaning and de-germing toilet seats, arm rests and restaurant tables.
  • Mat to put under your toddler during diaper changes – You have no idea where you might need to change a diaper.
  • Blanket(s) – Bring a few for comfort, shade, and warmth. Big scarves and wraps can do double duty, serving your needs as well as baby’s.
  • Plastic or reusable bags – Carry a variety of sizes for storing soiled diapers, clothes, and shoes.
  • Small bottles of disinfecting hand gel and toiletries – Buy travel sizes that can be stored in an easy-to-access tote or carry-on.
  • Tissues
  • Toys and books – Your child’s favorites, plus several new toys for surprises along the way. As lovely as it is to have a few books and crayons on hand, nothing beats a fully loaded iPad.
  • Your child’s favorite stuffed animal or blanket – Anything that provides comfort while away from familiar places.
  • Clothes, socks, and shoes – One to two outfits per day is a good guideline. Denim and dark colors are good for hiding dirt and stains. Prepare for weather changes by dressing in layers. Some parents swear by packing each outfit – a full change of clothes – in individual sealed bags for easy access.
  • Bathing suit – Lightweight and easy to pack, and you never know when it will come in handy.
  • Washable bibs
  • Sun hat and sunscreen
  • Sippy cups or bottles – Encourage your toddler to drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration, especially when flying.
  • Snack food – Don’t forget high-energy snacks for you, too.
  • Eating utensils
  • Nightlight – Helpful for your toddler and for you to locate him and the bathroom in a dark hotel room.
  • First-aid kit and child-proofing supplies –  Think socket protectors.
  • Portable crib or bed – Think long and hard before planning to have a (squirmy) toddler sleep with you. If he doesn’t have his own bed or crib at your destination, bring a portable one.
  • Car seat for travel by car or plane – If you’re renting a car, you can call ahead and arrange to have one waiting with your rental.
  • Portable stroller – Can usually be gate-checked or stored in the overhead bin of an airplane. It’s extremely helpful, even for toddler’s who think they’ve outgrown the stroller. Plus it’s perfect for holding your bags as you navigate the airport.

Keep to your schedule.
Toddlers, like babies, are more content and adjust better to new surroundings when they stick to a familiar schedule or routine. While it’s not always possible to follow the exact routine you have at home, you can typically stick to meal, nap and bedtime schedules with some consistency. You’ll both be happier travelers if you’re well rested and well fed.

Build in extra time for short attention spans.
As much as you’d like to get to your destination as quickly as possible, it’s not reasonable to expect a toddler to sit quietly, strapped into a car seat in a car or waiting in long lines at an airport. Build extra time into your schedule so that you can have little, frequent breaks and distractions.

For instance, let him push a toy around the airport waiting room or ride the escalators a few times. Three-wheeled scooters are great for burning energy, and they are easy to transport. On long car rides, plan to stop frequently. Experts suggest planning the trip so that part of it takes place during nap time –  when your child is awake, make rest stops every hour or two. Let him get out of the car to stretch, blow bubbles or kick a ball.

Incorporate time for yourself and time with your spouse or partner.
No matter how well you plan and prepare, travel with young children can be stressful and tiring. Give yourself a break by making time to take care of yourself and your adult relationships. Let Dad do solo duty for a bit while you take a nap or see the sights. You can both get a break and a chance to see the nightlife by hiring a sitter. Hotels can often recommend local babysitters, though it’s typically less expensive and more convenient to find and book a trustworthy sitter on UrbanSitter. You’ll have greater peace of mind leaving your child in a new sitter’s care after reading her profile and other parents’ reviews on the site.

Travel with your curious, squirmy toddler can be eye-opening and lots of fun if you’re prepared and patient. Before long, your tiny travel companion will become a big kid with a whole new perspective to bring to travel.

Traveling with a baby? Check out these tips for a stress free trip!

Looking for a babysitter or nanny while on vacation? Join UrbanSitter to find sitters at your vacation destination. 

10 Creative Ideas for Entertaining a Toddler (in the dead of winter!)

With temperatures reaching inhumane lows across the country, you or your sitter are likely trapped in the house with the kids and in near desperate need for new ways to keep them entertained. Save your sanity with these fun ideas for keeping little kids happy and engaged.

10 Creative Ideas for Entertaining a Toddler (in the dead of winter!)


1. Fill the tub or the kitchen sink! It’s time to bathe the toys, give the Barbies a spa day or host a car wash. If you really want to surprise your kids, hold the water and instead fill the tub with dried beans or rice and let them scoop and fill to their hearts’ content.

2. Build a slide or tunnel for toy cars to race down and under, using a piece of cardboard atop stacks of books or copy this creative masking tape roadway. Take it a step further with a DIY wasabi race track.

via Le Jardin de Juliette
via Le Jardin de Juliette

3. Create a fort by draping blankets over chairs and other furniture, and pretend it’s a house, boat or a plane. The opportunities are endless. If your kids love forts, consider creating this no-sew teepee from The Handmade Home.

via The Handmade Home
via The Handmade Home

4. Throw a dance party. Crank up the music and let loose. Get in on the fun and you can knock out your daily workout.

5. Brave the outdoors and create an ice skating party for dolls or action figures, a la the one by Happy Hooligans. She also has an ingenious post on making paint for painting the snow.

via Happy Hooligans
via Happy Hooligans

6. Set up a stage for an impromptu puppet show with dolls or sock puppets. Here’s a handy tutorial for making your own sock pocket, via One of a Kind Gift Ideas.

7. Toddlers love to push and pull things. Take a toy wagon or baby stroller outside and let them “mow the lawn” or plow the snow.

8. Taste test the art supplies!? Yes, break the rules and let them eat the paint with edible finger paints. You can stress less about the mess, since they are made with condensed milk. Super simple!

via Healthy Mama Info
via Healthy Mama Info

9. Reminisce by going through family photo albums and watching videos made when they were “young.” Slightly older kids will enjoy the walk down memory lane, too. You can take it a step further by talking about their family tree.

10. DIY Matching Game. Use whatever you have on hand, from the socks in the drier to cut lengths from a few spools of ribbon to keep a toddler busy matching.

via The Fickle Pickle
via The Fickle Pickle

What’s your favorite Winter-time activity? Have you made/done any of the pieces on this list? Tell us in the comments!

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3 Parenting Myths about Children & Sleep, Busted!

By Dawn Van Osdellsleep+toddler

There’s a lot of contradictory and downright erroneous parenting info floating around out there. We’re not afraid to tackle it head-on! 

You may be past the days of coaxing your newborn to sleep through the night, or convincing your toddler to get in bed while his older siblings are still awake. But sleep challenges don’t always disappear when your little one graduates to the big kid bed! This month, we
turned to psychologist and family sleep coach Sasha Carr, Ph.D. to help us bust three myths about sleep challenges related to growing children.

Myth #1: We have so much to do after school—activities, homework, dinner, spending time together as a family. It’s okay to push bedtime back to a later hour, since my child will be extra tired and is sure to sleep better.

Truth: It may seem reasonable to keep kids up later so we can squeeze more into our busy evenings, but the latest sleep research tells us that this isn’t a wise or productive solution. Although most young children naturally wake between 6:00 and 7:00 am, they are more likely to wake even earlier if they’ve gone to bed later, since overtired kids don’t sleep as well. They often have a hard time staying asleep through the night, or wake super early and aren’t able to go back to sleep, explains Carr. It’s important to stick to a reasonable bedtime so kids can load up on what Carr calls the “power hours” of sleep, that early, non-REM sleep time when we all sleep more soundly; this way, kids will easily be able to fall back to sleep after those normal, brief awakenings in the second half of the night.

You can make getting a good night’s sleep a priority in your house by holding tight to a reasonable bedtime. To get there, carefully consider which after-school activities are best for your child and your family and, when possible, scale back or move some of them to the weekends.


Myth #2: My child isn’t a baby anymore so he doesn’t need a bedtime ritual. Plus, now that he stays up later, I’m too tired to keep the routine going.

Truth: Bedtime routines can become like death marches for parents, especially if they’re too long and complex, or if they drag on too late into the evening. “While it’s tempting to cut your exhausted self some slack and skip the ritual, keep at it,” says Carr. Routines are reassuring even to older children, giving them consistency and calm and as a result, helping them fall asleep. If you already have a routine, work on shortening or simplifying it, so it’s easier for you to stick with it.

Thirty minutes is the ideal amount of time to be fully engaged with your child at the end of their day. So if bedtime stretches too far into the night, consider starting your bedtime routine a half hour earlier. If you always read three books, cut back to two. If you have more than one child to put to bed, save your sanity by adjusting your routine so that it includes everyone and accommodates age differences; alternate reading a chapter and picture books aloud, or have an older child read to his younger sibling, for example.

carseat+napMyth #3: My child finally sleeps through the night and it’s going to stay that way forever!

Truth: Bravo to you for reaching this amazing sleep milestone! But be aware that sleep habits can change as kids grow and also change. It’s not unusual for preschoolers to have difficulty falling asleep at night, especially during a period of change, such as starting school; and some children experience night terrors—similar to nightmares although much more disruptive to the rest of the family than to the child having them—typically between the ages of 3 and 12.

Also, interestingly, Carr points out that many children progress to an 8:00 pm bedtime as they get older, but our bodies’ circadian rhythms give us a
boost of a hormone called cortisol right around this time, which makes us more alert and therefore, less able to fall asleep. Outsmart it when the time comes, either by putting kids in bed before 8:00 pm (if they’ll stand for it), or establishing an 8:00 pm quiet time in which they can read or lie around before lights out, with the aim of having them drift off to sleep by 8:30 pm.

Photographs courtesy of UrbanSitter


Tips for Helping Your Teething Tot

Teething can be a difficult time for both babies and their caregivers. You can help a little one through the process by knowing what to expect, how to spot the telltale signs and by following helpful tips for easing discomfort.

image via mass distraction, flickr
image via mass distraction, flickr

What to Expect

Since babies can’t tell us what’s going on, parents are often left wondering why their normally content baby is cranky or fussy. Knowing when to expect new teeth will help to know if teething is to blame for the discomfort.

Teething typically begins as early as 3 months with your baby’s first tooth starting to push through between 4 and 7 months old. The first teeth to appear usually are the two bottom front teeth, also known as the central incisors. They’re usually followed 4 to 8 weeks later by the four front upper teeth (central and lateral incisors). About a month later, the lower lateral incisors (the two teeth flanking the bottom front teeth) will appear. Next to break through are the first molars (the back teeth used for grinding food), then finally the eye teeth (the pointy teeth in the upper jaw). Most kids have all 20 of their primary teeth by their third birthday.

Signs to Watch For

When your baby is cutting a tooth, she may experience any or all of these symptom and sometimes none at all.

  • Drooling more often than normal
  • Desire to chew on things, such as your finger, a toy, blanket or clothing
  • Periods of irritability or crankiness
  • Crying spells
  • Disrupted sleeping or eating patterns
  • A slight rise in temperature due to swollen gums

According to the experts, some babies feel no discomfort at all while teething and others are quite uncomfortable throughout the process. If your baby is unusually fussy, talk to your doctor.

Tips and Toys for Easing Teething Pain

  • Wipe drool to prevent skin irritation.
  • Offer a cold, wet cloth for baby to chew on. While a few minutes in the freezer will make the cloth cold enough to provide some relief, freezing it too long can cause irritation to your child’s gums.
  • Gently massage gums with a clean finger.
  • Give baby a chilled teether, such as this one MAM that has a handle that won’t get too cold to hold.MAM BPA Free Cooler Teether, Toys R Us
  • Offer a teething necklace. Chewable necklaces and jewelry, such as Chewbeads have been popular. The latest trend in teething necklaces is Amber Beads, reportedly safe and naturally soothing for gums.Chewbeads, Amazon
  • If she’s eating solid food, offer frozen food, such as a banana or peach. Munchin Fresh Food Teether allows you to put the frozen food in an enclosed mesh bag so you don’t have to worry about your baby getting too big of a piece in her mouth.

Munkin Fresh Food Teether,

  • The famed Sophie the Giraffe. Why is this rubber toy so popular…and why pay $20 for a chew toy? Sophie is made of all-natural rubber that feels great on the gums, squeaks to keep baby entertained, and even comes in a Vanilla scent that is said to sooth.Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether, Amazon
  • Try more than one teething toy, as all babies are different and may find toys some more comforting than others.
  • Ask your doctor about giving baby pain reliever, such as Advil or Tylenol for babies.

Teething is no fun for babies or those who care for them, but knowing what’s coming and how to ease the pain can make the process a lot easier on both of you. Make sure you tell your sitter if your child is cutting a tooth, and share these suggestions for soothing a sore mouth.

Tips to Help Ease Your Child’s Separation Anxiety

julia - sunhat girl

Guest Post by Vicky Keston of Gooselings

If your life with young children is anything like mine, it’s rare that you’re able to walk to the bathroom without a child attached to your legs or shower without a child or two peering through the glass. Needless to say, you need a break, but how do you get help from a babysitter when your child won’t leave your side?

According to childcare experts, children have an innate need to bond with their caregiver before they can trust them. Separation anxiety is common, but even young children can overcome their anxiety and bond with their sitter, giving you some much needed time to yourself. These useful tips will help you to understand the anxiety your child is feeling and take the necessary steps to make time away from you enjoyable and stress-free.

Tips to Ease Separation Anxiety

Find the right sitter for your child.
Interview potential sitters carefully to find one that both you and your child like and trust. Children can detect our nervousness, so your confidence in a childcare provider is important. Make the right choice by reviewing sitter background checks or paying to run one if it isn’t provided. Also check references from other parents and employers. When interviewing the caregiver, ask how she would handle your child’s separation anxiety and discuss strategies that might work best for your child. For additional questions to ask a sitter in an interview, check out this helpful article on interviewing potential childcare providers.

Do a trial run.
For the first time or two, ask the babysitter to watch your child while you’re in the home. Give them time to get comfortable together, then slowly ease your way out. Think of the preschool analogy in which teachers often tell parents to sit along the edge of the room while their child interacts with the teacher, feeling safe that their parent is in the room.

Read a book about Mommy always returning.
You can show your child that you understand her worries and assure her that your time apart is temporary by sharing books with characters they can relate to, such as “The Kissing Hand,” by Audrey Penn or “Owl Babies” by Martin Waddell. For children who are anxious about the transition to daycare or preschool, “My First at Nursery School,” by Becky Edwards is a comforting read.

Call it a playdate.
Tell your child that a new sitter is coming for a special playdate. Talk about how much fun they will have together, and discuss what types of things they can do together. Be enthusiastic. If you are nervous, your child will be, too.

Make it a quick goodbye.
When the caregiver arrives, say goodbye and remind your child that Mommy always comes back.

Create a family book.
Include photos of you, your child and the other important people in their life. It can be as simple as photos taped onto paper that you staple together, or as fancy as a photo book.  Leave this with the caregiver, so that your child can look at the photos when feeling lonely. If your child begins to miss you, ask the caregiver to help her write a letter or make a card for you.

Following these tips will help your child to build a bond and ultimately trust in a sitter, making it easier for her to be away from you. Remember that it’s healthy for your child to develop these bonds with others and just as important for you get a break.

For additional recommendations on leaving your child with a caregiver, see advice from Dr. Sears. For children starting preschool, see additional ideas at

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What to do When Your Child Wants to Wear a Snowsuit in September

snow suit

IMG_0067Whether you have a toddler who refuses to get dressed, a preschooler who insists on wearing the same seasonally-inappropriate outfit each and every day, or a grade-schooler who’s set on dressing like a teenage pop star, you are undoubtedly all too familiar with the frustration of battling with your child over what he or she will wear.

You can take a bit of comfort in knowing that you are certainly not alone! Experts say most kids put up a fight over what they’ll wear, as it’s simply one of the best ways they have of asserting their independence. So how do you get them out of the house without embarrassing at least one of you?

Here are 10 Tried-and-True Tips for Winning the Wardrobe Battle:

  1. Determine where you stand in letting your kids choose their clothes. Which camp are you in? Is clean and decent simply good enough or do you have a certain standard that you are not willing to compromise?
  2. Find a way to give your child some power over the situation. The best way to do this is to provide choices. The options you give set parameters for what you’ll allow, but giving your child a choice gives him a sense of control and also helps him to learn how to make decisions.
  3. Toddlers don’t like transitions. Make it easier by giving them a warning when it’s almost time to get dressed. You can also validate their desire to stay in their PJs with something like, “I know, those jammies are so comfy. We’ll get them back on tonight.”
  4. It’s more difficult to win a battle when you are rushed. Make sure everyone has plenty of time to get dressed in the morning. If you have a child who’s likely to put up a fuss, set the alarm a good 30 minutes early. You’ll be able to remain calm, and keep outbursts at bay.
  5. While you’d love for your child to look like the kids you see in catalogs, take comfort in knowing that letting her decide what to wear builds confidence and helps to instill a sense of personal responsibility.
  6. Don’t cave in to a begging child and buy an article of clothing that makes you cringe just so you can get out of the store. We guarantee your child will plead to wear that (neon pink t-shirt with giant Disney princesses) each and every day.
  7. Choose your battles. It won’t be long before your child outgrows her dying desire to wear a ballet leotard or an old Halloween costume to school. Sometimes it’s good enough if she’s simply adequately clothed for the weather – no bare legs in the winter or parkas in July.
  8. Understand that your child’s clothing choices are not a reflection of your parenting skills. Other adults won’t assume you’ve chosen to pair plaid and polka dots for your child. They’ll assume you’ve given your child some creative control, and decided to focus your energies on something you deem more important.
  9. Take the time to choose an outfit you both agree on before bedtime, rather than five minutes before morning carpool.
  10. Communicate the rules and stick to them! Consistency is key.

It’s helpful and effective to have anyone who cares for your child on-board with your guidelines of what’s acceptable clothing, so whatever you decide to do, be sure to communicate with your babysitter or nanny and ask that she back you up!

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